summer · writing

Tips for Time Management (not ironic coming from me at all)

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For us, summer started behind and never caught up. All good things. But there hasn’t been enough watermelon on the porch time.

And I’m tired. Between camps and deadlines and driving 264 miles a day (an exaggeration but that’s how it feels), I’m wishing I had someone to manage my time.

Instead I just made some notes so I’d remember how to do better. Then I blogged them over at one of my other internet homes.


People crack me up when they ask how I “do it all.”

I’m pretty sure if these same people were a fly on my wall, they’d:

a) have full run of the house because I’m too busy to buy a fly swatter.

b) realize pretty quickly, I’m definitely not doing it all.

Read more at Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers.

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just write life · Recipes · summer · writing

Creative Summer Suppers

3 Creative Summer Suppers

These days supper might be my most creative moment. Four busy summer kids is a lot to handle, making the moments we gather around the table all the more special. Summer cooking is its own lesson in creativity and color, and there’s nothing I love better than the simplicity of yellow squash and green zucchini tossed with a sliced onion and sizzling in my cast iron skillet… Read more.

Sharing simple creative summer suppers over at Soulful Ink today. Join me there?

summer · writing

On Camping Despite the Rain

IMG_2137We camped. It rained. Again.

I don’t know why I continue to put myself through this.

Truthfully, I think I wanted to hide from cell phone service for a couple of days. There’s a gap up in our mountains with a swimming lake and a jumping dock and a two mile radius before phones register any outside world. We went there even though two days is hardly worth the trouble and the forecast featured lightning bolts.

I went for the quiet. No texts. No emails. No notifications.

But the woods are not quiet. Birds trill their morning songs and streams rush and tree canopies plop raindrops even when the monsoon has passed. Drippy tent rainflies and wet towels and long legged spiders who crawl across the breakfast dishes uninvited do not make my escape peaceful.

But the woods are simple and I was seeking that. There are no choices beyond what’s in the cooler or the kitchen box or the pack of clean clothes. There are fewer decisions and fewer distractions.

Yet, the rain still came down hard and the shelter didn’t always hold.


There’s a lot of prep work that goes into camping or a vacation or publishing a book. There’s a lot of thinking through the “what ifs” and the “how tos” and the “maybe this.” There’s a lot of rigging that ties off a tarp that might keep the rain from drowning the picnic basket but sacrifices all the dry towels.

Fact is, sometimes the rain comes down and shakes the shelter and you get wet despite all the preparations. Sometimes, there’s not even enough time to seek the shelter before you’re soaked to the bone and forming a puddle of your own.

I’m puddling a lot lately. Soaked to the bone.


I keep waiting to be told what to do next. Which agent to submit to. Which marketing trend to follow. Which interview to give.

I’m tying up my shelter, expecting the high and dry when truth is, the rain comes no matter how secure the knots. And the question is–when I get wet, do I rush for the place that’s dry and safe?

Or do I look for the lesson in the rain?

As long as you’re reading, I’ll keep looking.  Maybe we’ll find the answer together.

 

Life here isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, but it isn’t all thunderstorms and clouds either. It’s a healthy mix of hard and easy, simple and complex, praise and criticism. I hope. My little space here is evolving with my career, and I’d love you to join me in the journey by subscribing to my monthly-ish newsletter, following my author Facebook page, or please consider purchasing my debut novel, Still Waters. The book just received a 4-star review from the Romantic Times. For that moment, I came out and danced in the rain. 

 

favorite things · summer

When You’re Finally Able to Really Rest {Some Recommendations}

I think every blogger I follow is writing on rest right now. Rest and saying yest to whatever plan God may have up His sleeve for you next.

I’m not going to talk about that right now. Mostly because I haven’t really had any rest lately and we’re just in a season where it seems that I have to get what I can, when I can, however I can and accept that right now God’s plan for me may look like chaos to every one else.

I’m okay with that because I know we’re going to work through this busy season and a period of quiet, intentional work is coming.

That being said, we are done (DONE!!!) with The King and I at the community theater. It was great fun and my first experience being in a big musical, but I don’t think we will do another summer play any time soon. Or a Christmas play either, for that matter. However, Madelynne was cast for Alice in Wonderland this October, and I’ll be directing again in the spring (Thornton Wilder’s Our Town–hearkening back to 11th grade literature), so we’re not really on a theater break at all. It’s fun, though, and I’ve always seen this as a place where we can serve and use the gifts God has given us in unique ways.

The advantage to being part of the ensemble in a big show is that I got lots of down time backstage. So I took along my ipad and finally got around to reading some of the great ebooks I purchased through the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle last year. Oh my word–so much goodness! (And so much fluff, too. Honestly, some of those books made me wonder why I haven’t taken the plunge and written an ebook yet because they were 30 simple pages of tips I already know. But the bundle was still worth it because the good ones were so, so good.)

My favorite backstage reads are hopefully going to help me give my days some more structure AND flexibility. If you’re looking for a great book on intentional motherhood, I’m recommending Steady Days for Jamie’s simple, practical approach to mothering. Yes, there’s emphasis on “routine” which is something I’ve always struggled with because I want to be that spontaneous, fun mom who isn’t bogged down by what has to be done between certain chunks of time, but let’s be honest. A routine is something we all have–even when we say we don’t. I like that I can take some of her ideas and suggestions and maximize them for my family and my needs. Plus, I’m getting focused on writing as an income source and in order to do that, I have to carve out intentional time. Another plus for having a steady day with a simple routine that we can all live with. You can read more about this over at Steady Mom.

I also delved into some crazy cooking goodness with Kitchen Stewardship. Her book Healthy Lunches: Sandwich Free Secrets to Packing a Real Food Lunch has inspired me to think outside the standard ham&mayo combo that my kids eat almost everyday we pack lunch (they get to choose school lunch once a week, it’s a cost effective, nutrition concern, keep the peace decision). I enjoyed the book so much that last Saturday when I spent the night in the hospital with my grandmother, I stayed up way too late reading recipes and interesting perspectives on real food. We’re not totally on the bandwagon (this week there was a meltdown when I tried to suggest something other than Aunt Jemima syrup on the waffles), but I do think we already make pretty good decisions involving what we eat around here. But we could always do better, and with my sister’s and nephew’s recent diagnosis of allergies and ulcerative colitis, I’m wanting to up my repertoire of foods I can serve when they’re here so Ash doesn’t have to worry about dairy-egg-soy-gluten making them sick. If you’re interested in any of Katie’s great books, I encourage you to check them out here and visit her site. Today she’s giving away a $100 lunch package to make lunch packing fun on even the most hectic of mornings.

Finally, as our first week of school post-play is winding down, I’m trying to re-establish my Sacred Hour. It’s been challenging with Gus and Amelia crawling into bed with us the past few nights at 4 a.m. (not sure if this new room situation is working or not), but I’m committed to getting back in the Word. I know now that I am never going to reach some great spiritual plateu and get to consider myself a graduate of understanding the great grace that is Christ, but I also believe fully that the more time I spend in the Word God has given us, the better I will come to know Him and have peace with things I just cannot understand. One of my favorite devotionals right now (and what I’m using until Good Morning Girls kicks off) is the Jesus Calling devotional app. If you have not read any of Jesus Calling I highly recommend the app or this beautiful hard copy from DaySpring. And if you follow me on twitter, you might notice that I’m trying to regularly post a line or two that speaks to me each day.

It’s such a simple little book with enormous capability to point me back to the living Word of God. Which is where I always find my best rest. Oh, and by the way, stop back Monday for a link to all of the Jesus Calling collection at DaySpring and a great coupon code!

So tell me–what are some of your recommendations for establishing routines, packing school lunch, and having a quiet time? I’d love to read about what works for you in the comments below. Or you can find me on Facebook and join the conversation there!

Coming Next Week:
A Trip to LeConte Lodge
One Family’s Story of How They Didn’t Grocery Shop for a Month
A Reflection on Depression

Pretty sure it’s impossible to keep up with my sporadic posting? You can always subscribe via email. Put your address in that little box under my picture. Easy.
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living local · summer

Why That South Carolina Low Country is Home Too

This is a repost I wrote two summers ago. Over the past week Edisto Beach suffered extensive damage in the wake of Hurricane Matthew because it did what it does best–provided a barrier. You can view photos of how the beach fared on Facebook Edisto Beach Police Department. Much gratefulness to those who serve the locals of Edisto and those of us who borrow that title whenever we can.

 

I like to write about living local. So much so that it was my 31 Days series this past fall. (Anyone already gearing up for that? Yeah, me neither.) I write about places to go and eat and how to support local small businesses because it’s a topic my husband and I are passionate about. Also, I just really love to get out of the house and explore. Keeps my kids from fighting over electronic devices.

So I write a lot about living local here in northeast Georgia even though I’m technically a transplant to this place. I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately. How something about a place will continue to shape our character and decisions long after we’ve left it. How you can belong to a place in zipcode and phone record but never really belong, never really feel a part of the intricate web of history and geneology that so pervades small southern towns.

I’m glad I live here, belong here, am raising my family here. My blood connection to these woods and blue ridges lies with my grandfather who loved a campfire and hot coffee with almost the same intensity that he loved my grandmother. But even so, sixty-plus years of fall camping trips at the secret Walnut Tree isn’t the same as having been born into this place and these people. I get the history but not the lineage.

Then, after a six year hiatus, my family heads back down the coast to sleepy Edisto Island on the edge of the South Carolina low country. I grew up riding the waves and scraping the shells out of my swimsuit on this beach that’s like a portal to another time. My mother grew up coming here after the tobacco had been hung to dry in the barns and school was near on the horizon. I’m writing a novel that’s set on these shores and dirt roads hung with Spanish moss. So it’s more than just a vacation destination. It’s as much home as the Granite Capitol that raised me and the mountains that hold me now.

 

 

But I didn’t realize that until I’d been gone and returned to be saddened by the changes and heartened by all that stayed the same. We rode bikes in the evening twilight and bashed our knees in the high tide waves. We hunted snail shells and sharks’ teeth and the elusive sand dollar. We set up canopies and played all day.

 

We bought a book that could have been written about my family.

The Pink House, by Kate Salley Palmer

We shared this favorite place with friends and popsicles and Independence Day.

One day I rode my bike down Pointe Street in search of two older beach cottages the local historian said would help me visualize the Edisto of my mother’s childhood. There was a woman tending tomatoes and flowers in the raised beds of a community garden in someone’s front yard, and I stopped to ask her a few questions about living here.

Tivoli Cottage, Edisto Beach
“Where you from, honey?” was her iconic greeting.

I told her where we live and added that I’d grown up coming here and my grandparents had been from nearby Walterboro.

“Oh,” she said with an easy wave of her hand. “You’re local then.”

Local indeed. And grateful for it.

Friday Five · summer · writing

Release {Five Minute Friday}

On Fridays the writers gather at Lisa Jo’s. We write in five minute increments like ones scared braved. We’re not supposed to edit or backtrack or over think, though everyone confesses to that at least once and that’s why there’s grace for even the most ordinary of writing tasks.

Except on Fridays five minute ordinary becomes extraordinary. Join us? Link up here and give us your five minutes on

Release

Sometimes the build up is more than I can stand. My fingers twitch and my eyes flick and I start to breathe convulsively as I stand surrounded by mounds of laundry and last night’s crockpot soaking in the sink.

It’s just too much life.

Is there such a thing? The calendar is pretending there’s white space but really it’s just blank until I get a rehearsal schedule and there’s another calendar of deadlines and due dates and color codes for fiction and non-fiction and the pieces that don’t actually pay inside a notebook for a writer.

I’m waiting to be struck over the head with great inspiration and it’s all around. The steam is rising off the hot pavement after the summer rain and the baby boy is looking for a lawn mower and there’s zucchini in my fridge that was on the vine a mere 48 hours ago.

There’s just so much life.

My fingers twitch and can’t fly fast enough and my mind chugs along not able to keep up with the words, words, words that spill out and over and all around because how do you capture the sound of a morning bird or a summer night?

Deep breathing. Slow. Down. There’s a little white space crammed in that afternoon between the church and the dance studio and it’s at the babbling brook that winds through the forest that grew me up when I was a college intern.

The release comes sudden. The desire to put it down and just savor the words for myself without care for if anyone else will know.

living local · motherhood · summer

In Which We Camp at Don Carter State Park


I am clearly a crazy person. Do not confuse what I am about to tell you with the idea that I’m a great mom or a fun mom or a brave mom.

I am none of those things.

I am a crazy mom who gets wild ideas and then with the same incorrigible stubborness I despise in my 8 year old, I continue to pursue said crazy ideas even when the odds are stacked against me.

Oh, and then I whine about how the odds are stacked against me and I just can’t ever seem to catch a break.

Sheesh. I am a crazy person.

I took my kids camping last week. Yes, all of them. Yes, tent camping. Yes, it was raining the day we set out. Yes, we had to hike in to our site.

Yes, crazy person.

But they were so excited. And so helpful. And so thrilled to be camping and swimming in the lake. By the way, it’s perfectly acceptable to be wet while swimming, but getting wet because rain is pouring down while your crazy mother tries to set up the broken canopy is not acceptable and results in massive screaming.

Just so you know.

We had decided to check out Georgia’s newest state park, Don Carter on the shores of Lake Lanier. It’s only about 25 miles from home and has a great beach area the kids are in love with. And the most awesome playground, ever. However, it also has a truly primitive campground. They were in love with that too.

Twelve sites are nestled back in the woods and along the lake shore. They’re fairly separated from one another, so you definitely don’t feel like you’re camping on top of someone else, but the trade off? All sites require a walk in. Some more so than others. Last weekend when we scoped it out, they picked out one of the farthest sites from the parking lot. It was about 100 yards down a paved trail and another hundred or so yards up a trail through the woods.

“But, Mommy, we won’t wake up anybody else when we get up early!”

Well, there’s that for a positive.

Really, it was a great site. My only complaint is not actually the walk in, but the lack of a picnic table in the primitive sites. I for sure wasn’t carrying one of those up that trail. Our two-room twelve-person tent was enough of a load, thank you very much.

So we walked it all in. I had repacked all the gear to make it as easy as possible, planned meals around minimalist needs and cooking (Pop-tarts for the first time in months!), and steeled myself for the potential complaining when they realized just how much work this really is.

But I didn’t prepare myself adequately for ME.

You know this happens to us all the time as mothers. We plan and pack and prep for everyone else. We overlook ourselves. We forget to account for our own capacity and abilities and instead fall into the belief our kids have about us: we think we can do it all by ourselves.

Crazy person.

I can’t do anything by myself. And the last lesson I want my kids to learn is that I can. Instead, I want them to learn that the only reason mommy can do anything is because the first place I go in the morning is my knees and the second place I go is their daddy.

Problem is, sometimes I skip those two places and go straight to the throne of myself. That’s when I fall apart. Because the pressure I put on myself is infinitely greater than the expectations my Father God or my precious husband have for me.

On our first day out, I prayed and had a Bible study with my kids before we left. We talked about the verse I had studied that morning.

12 Clothe yourselves therefore, as God’s own chosen ones (His own picked representatives), [who are] purified and holy and well-beloved [by God Himself, by putting on behavior marked by] tenderhearted pity and mercy, kind feeling, a lowly opinion of yourselves, gentle ways, [and] patience [which is tireless and long-suffering, and has the power to endure whatever comes, with good temper].–Colossians 3:12 (AMP) 

So, Thursday was a good day despite the rain that came down and the canopy that didn’t come up and the flood that soaked all our clothes.  Thursday I had called on power outside myself to endure whatever came so that my kids would not have a crazy mama. We had all agreed to work on being patient with one another no matter what.

But apparently, I forgot all that by Friday morning when I was getting all worked up over a visit from my sister and the idea that Joshua would come in that afternoon and what if they thought I’d done everything wrong? There was dirt in the tent, no table, and Gus’s kneecaps couldn’t be found under all the scrapes and bruises. Not to mention Amelia wore the same clothes for two days because hers were still wet despite a visit to the the dryer in the posh RV campground.

I forgot, again, that not everything is always all about me. And not everything I do has to be filtered through the screen of what everyone else might think.

Expectations are not absolutes. Life is so often a series of expectations that are unrealistic and unachievable, yet we crush ourselves under the weight of failure when nothing seems to go according to plan. All week people have been asking me if our trip was fun, if it was worth it, if we had a good time. I tend to say it would be more worth it had it been longer, had I been more patient, had it not rained.

But my kids? Just like that time we hiked Tallulah Gorge, they figured it was worth it all along. You know why? They’re expectations were simple: we camp and we swim. Only mine were outlandish.

We camp. We are happy the whole time. No one fights. We sing in the rain. We do everything right so no one can find fault or say they’d have done it differently.

You know what? I’d be really crazy not to like the expectations they have of me a lot better than the ones I have of myself.

Yes, I’ll do it again sometime. But this time? I’ll raise my hands in praise and lower my voice of expectation.

Don Carter really is a great place for families to camp, hike, swim, and play. Check it and other wonderful state parks out here.